Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

As is typical of the first day of the Supreme Court's new term, today the court issued a nearly 80-page list of cases in which it has denied certiorari. (Order list.)  Among the cases that the Court has refused to review are:

First Korean Church of New York, Inc. v. Cheltenham Township Zoning Hearing Board (Docket No. 12-1399).  In the case a Pennsylvania federal district court granted summary judgment to defendants in a lawsuit by First Korean Church that had been prevented by township zoning ordinances from using a 33.8 acre... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Puskar v. Krco, (IL App., Sept. 23, 2013), involves a complicated dispute over whether or not the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanante of New Gracanica Diocese of the United States and Canada reunited with the Serbian Orthodox Church based in Belgrade, Serbia.  In 1992, the two organizations took steps to unite by adopting Transitional Regulations.  Bishop Longin, appointed by the Belgrade church, announced in 2009 that a reorganization had occurred and that there is no longer a split between the Metropolitanante Diocese and... more

News today included news on a number of amicus briefs filed in the Supreme Court Case Town of Greece v. GallowayDue to the Court's briefing schedule, almost all of these briefs support allowing legislative prayer in the Town of Greece.  Other briefs opposing the town's practice of prayer will be filed later. A complete list of the briefs will be posted here For convience, we link directly to the briefs filed which were notable:

  • The United States argued that prayers with Christian references are consistent with Marsh v. Chambers.
  • 85 members of the House
... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Green v. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, (MD Ct. App., Jan. 23, 2013), the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that an apartment complex owned by the Mormon Church used to house a revolving group of ordinance workers who perform religious ceremonies full-time for a two-year period at the Church’s Washington, D.C. Temple is entitled to a tax exemption as a "convent." The majority of these workers are retired married couples.  The court interpreted "convent" as used in Md. Code 7-204... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In United States v. Dillard, (D KA, March 7, 2013), a Kansas federal district court held that the clergy-communicant privilege extends only to members of the clergy and not to a lay counselor providing religious counseling or other support through a religious program. Defendant, Angel Dillard, visited inmates at the Sedgwick County jail through a non-profit religious ministries program.  In the case, the federal government is seeking information on Dillard's communications through the program with Scott Roeder, who is serving... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Hunt v. Central Consolidated School District, (D NM, June 12, 2013), a New Mexico federal district court in a long opinion held that a former Transportation Director and former Custodial Supervisor could proceed with claims that their reassignments as part of a school district administrative restructuring were motivated by anti-Mormon bias. The court held that plaintiffs had stated plausible claims of discrimination, conspiracy and breach of contract. The suit alleged that the school board president and his campaign manager were... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Doe v. Franklin County, Missouri, (ED MO, June 7, 2013), plaintiff, who attended County Commission meetings, sued the county and Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer who often opened Commission meetings with a Christian prayer, instead of with the scheduled moment of silence. The court fund that plaintiff has standing.  It then refused to dismiss the suit against Griesheimer on the basis of legislative immunity, finding that the content of the prayers involved did not relate to deliberating or passing any law-- a prerequisite... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Valenzisi v. Stamford Board of Education, (D CT, June 5, 2013), a Connecticut federal district court dismissed a claim by high school math teacher challenging his termination on, among other grounds, Title VII and 1st Amendment claims of failure to accommodate his religious beliefs. Teacher Frank Valenzisi was required to obtain a "fit for duty" medical evaluation before he could resume teaching after claims of aggressive behavior, difficulty recognizing people and bizarre behavior in a meeting with the deputy superintendent.  Valenzisi... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday (May 22, 2013) heard oral arguments in two cases challenging the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate.  One was Korte v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Audio of the full oral argument).  In the case, an Illinois federal district court denied a preliminary injunction sought by a for-profit construction business and its controlling shareholders in a free exercise challenge to the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act.  (See... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Smith v. Thaler, (5th Cir., May 21, 2013), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a habeas corpus petition filed by a non-ordained pastor who had been convicted of sexual assault under a Texas statute that makes sexual relations non-consensual when the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to participate by exploiting the other person's emotional dependency on the clergyman as a spiritual adviser. The court held it was reasonable for state courts to conclude that the statute does not implicate protected sexual conduct... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In a case that has been closely followed by home-school advocates, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals this week denied asylum to a German family that claimed persecution because of Germany's ban on home schooling.  As reported by RNS, the evangelical Christian family prefers home schooling largely for religious reasons. In Romeike v. Holder, (6th Cir., May 14, 2013), in an opinion by Judge  Sutton, the court said in part:

When the Romeikes became fed up with Germany’s ban on homeschooling and when their prosecution... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

May 9, 2013.  In a long-running free-exercise/ free-speech case, in March a the federal district court in Puerto Rico, on remand from the 1st Circuit, ordered neighborhood homeowners' associations (urbanizations) that allow entry into the neighborhood only through an unmanned locked gate operated by a key, access code or beeper to provide Jehovah's Witnesses who wish to proselytize in the neighborhood access equal to that of residents. (See prior posting.) Apparently the negative response to the ruling impelled the court to issue... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In American Atheists, Inc. v. Port Authority of NY and NJ, (SD NY, March 28, 2013), a New York federal district court rejected constitutional challenges to the inclusion of the World Trade Center Cross—two beams that survived the collapse of the World Trade Center—as part of the  National September 11 Museum in lower Manhattan.  While finding that the decision by the World Trade Center Foundation to include the 17-foot tall cross as part of the displays amounted to state action, the court nevertheless held that... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Rubin v. City of Lancaster, (9th Cir., March 26, 2013), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to the Lancaster, California city council's practice of opening its sessions with a prayer.  The city solicits volunteers from local congregations of all faiths. Plaintiffs however object that a number of invocations still invoked Jesus' name. The court held, however, that sectarian Christian references are not prohibited by the Establishment Clause, so long as the city has not taken steps... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

A Pennsylvania federal district court on Wednesday handed down a decision in a case challenging the contraceptive coverage mandate promulgated under the Affordable Care Act.  Unlike other cases decided so far, this one combined a challenge by a non-profit college and two for-profit businesses that do not appear to have any relation to the college.  The 69-page opinion reached different results as to the different challengers.  In Geneva College v. Sebelius, (WD PA, March 6, 2013), the court held that while the non-profit... more

Howard Freidman, Religion Clause

In Thompson v. Commissioner, (USTC, March 4, 2013), the U.S. Tax Court faced the question of the extent to which a taxpayer entering an installment agreement for the payment of back taxes should be allowed to continue to tithe to the Mormon Church.  George Thompson, who was a volunteer shift coordinator and a stake scouting coordinator for the Church, sought a partial payment installment agreement with the IRS for the over $880,000 in taxes and penalties he owed. The IRS offered an agreement under which he would pay $8389 per... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Gilardi v. Sebelius (D DC, March 3, 2013), the D.C. federal district court refused to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate in a suit by two related for-profit Subchapter S corporations and their Catholic owners.  Plaintiffs object on religious grounds to providing coverage for contraception, sterilization and contraceptive methods that act as abotifacients. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas v. Sebelius, (ND TX, Feb. 26, 2013), a Texas federal district court dismissed on ripeness grounds a challenge by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas to the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act. The court held that while plaintiff at the time of filing the lawsuit faced sufficiently imminent injury to have standing, subsequent developments require a dismissal for lack of ripeness. The government's Feb. 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking undermine a realistic and pragmatic consideration... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Briscoe v. Sebelius, (D CO, Feb. 27, 2013), a Colorado federal district court refused to grant a temporary restraining order to a for-profit corporation, two related for-profit LLCs and their evangelical Christian owner who were challenging the application of the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate to them. The companies manage and operate senior care assisted living centers and skilled nursing facilities, and offer a self-insurance plan to their over 200 employees. Business owner Stephen Briscoe Briscoe says that... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, (9th Cir., Feb. 8, 2013), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld an Arizona town's sign ordinance that limits the size, number and time frame in which temporary directional signs can be displayed.  The ordinance was challenged by a church that placed 17 signs in the area around its place of worship announcing the time and location of its services. The majority concluded that the ordinance does not violate free expression guarantees since it is not a content-based regulation... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Lye v. City of Lacey, (WD WA, Feb. 8, 2013), a Washington federal district court rejected claims that police officers violated Hui Son Lye's 1st and 4th Amendment rights when they arrested her for trespass at the request of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The Church issued Lye a "no trespass" order after she disrupted services several times with her demands that the Church conduct Mass in Korean.

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Bethel World Outreach Ministries of Montgomery County v. Montgomery County Council, (4th Cir., Jan. 31, 2013), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals clarified the standard to be applied under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act to claims that a zoning denial imposed a "substantial burden" on a church's free exercise of religion.  To show a substantial burden, a religious organization need not show that the challenged land use regulation pressured it to violate its beliefs. Instead, it need only show that... more

In Persico v. Sebelius, (WD PA, Jan. 22, 2013), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed on ripeness grounds a challenge to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate brought by the Catholic Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania and two organizations affiliated with Pennsylvania Catholic Charities.  As have most other courts that have dealt with challenges to the ACA mandate by religious non-profit employers, the court concluded:

Under the "safe harbor" provisions established by current regulations, Plaintiffs are protected from any potential enforcement... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

On Tuesday [22 January 2012] the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Sherman v. Illinois, (Docket No. 12-621, cert. denied 1/22/2013). (Order list.) In the case, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that activist and atheist Robert Sherman lacked taxpayer standing to challenge a $20,000 grant by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to Friends of the Cross as part of the cost of restoring the Bald Knob Cross, an Illinois tourist attraction. Nor could he force Friends of the Cross to return the funds to... more

In EEOC v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., (D DC, Jan. 18, 2013), the D.C. federal district court dismissed an EEOC lawsuit against a rent-to-own business finding that accommodating the religious beliefs of store manager Ferdinand Charles would impose an undue hardship on the company. Charles' religious beliefs prohibited him from working on Saturdays, the store's busiest day. The store is closed on Sundays and the company requires all managers to work on Saturdays. The court said that the EEOC was asking for the store to allow its most important employee to regularly be absent... more

In Ballaban v. Bloomington Jewish Community, (IN App., Jan. 17, 2013), a 3-judge Indiana appellate court, with each judge writing a separate opinion, rejected a rabbi's claim that he had been wrongfully dismissed as congregational rabbi before the end of his 3-year contract.  The congregation claimed that the firing was the result of complaints about the rabbi's angry outbursts and hostile behavior and his placing the tax exempt status of the synagogue at risk by accepting a donation intended for a single recipient and assuring the donor it would be tax... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause 

In D.L. v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, (4th Cir., Jan. 16, 2013), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. § 794) does not require the Baltimore city school board to provide educational services to students enrolled in private religious schools.  Here the parents of a student in a Jewish school sought special services for their 8th grader who suffered from ADHD and anxiety.  The court also concluded that requiring a student to enroll... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts v. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, (1st Cir., Jan. 15, 2013), the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals remanded with instructions to dismiss as moot a suit brought in 2009 alleging that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services violated the Establishment Clause when it contracted with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide services under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The appeals court held that the expiration of the contract with USCCB... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In New England Prayer Center, Inc. v. Planning & Zoning Commission of the Town of Easton2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3063 (CT Super, Dec. 13, 2012), the New England Prayer Center sought a special permit so it could build a house of worship on land it leased from the town.  The Zoning and Planning Commission granted the permit only with a number of conditions attached. Plaintiff challenged 5 of the conditions. A Connecticut state trial court held that plaintiff had not shown RLUIPA violations, but the court sustained... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Today is Religious Freedom Day, the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786.  Each year the President issues a proclamation marking the day. So far this year's proclamation has not been posted on the White House website.  Presumably it will appear later today and this post will be updated with a link to it.

In Annex Medical, Inc. v. Sebelius, (D MN, Jan. 8, 2013), a Minnesota federal district court refused to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate against a small for-profit medical device manufacturing company and its devout Catholic CEO.  The court concluded that there was not a likelihood that plaintiffs would succeed on the merits of their Religious Freedom Restoration Act claim because "the Mandate  places  only  a  de  minimis,  not  substantial,... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In a 102-page opinion, a New York federal district court in Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov, Inc. v. Village of Pomona, (SD NY, Jan. 4, 2013), dismissed on ripeness grounds a number of "as applied" challenges to the land use ordinances of the Village of Pomona, New York. However the court permitted plaintiffs to proceed with facial challenges to the ordinances under the 1st and 14th Amendments, RLUIPA, the Fair Housing Act and the New York constitution. Plaintiffs alleged that the village adopted the land use ordinances... more

JURUPA VALLEY, Calif.—2 November 2012. A Southern California school district is allowing some Sikh students to carry an article of their faith—a dagger-like blade called a kirpan.

At least three high school students in the Jurupa Unified School District will be allowed to wear the approximately 2-inch knives at school after their parents agreed to solder them or sew them into the sheaths so they cannot be used as weapons, Superintendent Elliott Duchon said.

The kirpan is one of five sacred articles that baptized Sikhs must wear.

"This is an issue of religious... more